Cooperation bears fruit in extensive strategy projects – also in the case of the Bioeconomy Strategy

The Finnish Bioeconomy Strategy (“Sustainable growth from bioeconomy”) was drafted between 2012 and 2014 in a project launched by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. Last September, we assessed the preparation of the strategy. As the auditors, we were impressed by the extensive, successful cooperation between administration, stakeholders and citizens during the preparation process.

Authors: Markku Turtiainen, Hanna Virta

The 2025 vision of the Finnish Bioeconomy Strategy is sustainable bioeconomy solutions being the foundation of wellbeing and competitiveness in Finland. The objectives include increasing Finland’s bioeconomy output to EUR 100 billion and creating 100,000 new jobs by the year 2025. These targets are based on the situation in 2011 when the Finnish bioeconomy output totalled EUR 60 billion and the sector employed 319,000 people.

Bioeconomy affects us all in one way or another. In the strategy, bioeconomy is defined as follows: “Bioeconomy refers to an economy that relies on renewable natural resources to produce food, energy, products and services. The bioeconomy strives to reduce our dependence on fossil natural resources, to prevent biodiversity loss and to create new economic growth and jobs in line with the principles of sustainable development.”

The comprehensiveness of the Bioeconomy Strategy can already be seen in its name, “Sustainable growth from bioeconomy” – this was the case already in 2014, before the emergence of sustainability due to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This might not be the most classic name for a strategy coordinated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

It was only natural to draft the comprehensive strategy via extensive cooperation: a total of seven ministries and their administrative branches, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and a host of stakeholders were involved in the project. In fact, anyone could have participated in the preparation of the strategy through the websites and One could say that the Bioeconomy Strategy was drafted based on the phenomenon, even though phenomenon-based learning was not discussed much at the time.

A Government strategy like the Bioeconomy Strategy is a political declaration of intent. For such a declaration of intent to mean anything, the strategy must enjoy widespread support. How else could you assume its implementation to continue also during the next government term? The new Government might even scrap the entire strategy, and nothing prevents the current Government from terminating the strategy before the end of its term.

Extensive cooperation in the preparation of the strategy promotes such widespread support. The Bioeconomy Strategy that was completed in 2014 is still being implemented through the Government programme of Prime Minister Sipilä’s Government, whose term started in May 2015.

Cooperation requires some effort, but also bears fruit. When successful, cooperation causes commitment, assists people in understanding different viewpoints and improves the final result, as issues have to be discussed from a variety of perspectives and participants have to justify their views to others. As different views have already been discussed and reconciled, implementation of the decisions will be smoother. Also in the case of the Bioeconomy Strategy, the extensive cooperation made the drafting of the strategy more arduous but also promoted the implementation of the strategy.